LENNOX LEWIS … ONLY BOXER IN HEAVYWEIGHT HISTORY TO WIN THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP ON 3 SEPARATE OCCASIONS … CAREER RECORD: 41 WINS, 2 LOSSES, 1 DRAW … OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, BOXING, 1988 (SECOND-ROUND TKO OF FUTURE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION RIDDICK BOWE) First your legs go. Then you lose your reflexes. Then you lose your friends. WILLIE P E P, former featherweight champion 94 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Iwas a hyperactive kid and if it wasn’t for sports, I was headed for deep trouble. And if it wasn’t for my first trainer, Arnie Boehm, who told me at fifteen to come to boxing, you can be a good boxer, I shudder to think what would have happened to me. I was also playing basketball and football, but having a place to go after finishing those sports, in my case the gym, rather than coming home to an empty house, was key for me. I just loved learning how to box. I loved the discipline it demanded, and more importantly, I knew I could not be fighting on the streets anymore. Before taking up boxing, I was defiant on the street, and I knew those days had to be over.
NOT A TEAM SPORT GUY People now think of me as only a boxer, but those who grew up with me in Canada know I played all sports. My two top sports were boxing and football. I started to get this reputation of being a prima donna because it seemed that every time there was a big football game, I had to go away for a big boxing tournament. My teammates started to resent me because I was not there to score touchdowns for them. It was agonizing, because I felt I had a future in both sports if I worked at it. But I had to make a decision. My senior season our football team was unbeaten, but we blew the championship by losing in the finals. My teammates were crying and I thought to myself, Why are you crying? We lost because we made too many mistakes and on the last play of the game our receiver dropped the ball. It was at that point that it occurred to me that I’d rather count on myself then fifty other guys, so I left football, left all my friends, and chose boxing. I wanted to be in control of who wins and loses. WHO TAUGHT YOU TOUGHNESS? It was my mom who deserves the credit for teaching me to be tough. I didn’t have a father, so she had to be both mom and dad for me. If I ever fell down, she’d be the first one to say, Get up, it’s not that bad. Other kids are much worse off than you are. LENNOX LEWIS 95 NO FEAR OF NOT WINNING, JUST A DISLIKE FOR GETTING PUNCHED I don’t know if there was one bout that convinced me I could be good at boxing.
I just wanted to think of it like a game. My mind-set was, try it and let’s see how far I can go. It turned out I created a stir and got quite a lot of attention after a bunch of wins. But what probably convinced me that I could be real good was a fight in 1984 against the best amateur heavyweight in the world, Tyrell Biggs. In round one, he just outboxed me. I was this eighteen-year-old kid and he just took me to school. Right before the second round began, I sat on my stool and decided that he’d have to kill me to win. It was the first time I was willing to get injured to win. Technically, he was better than me, but for the first time my toughness outshined him. Even though I lost the bout, I sent a couple of messages to the boxing world and to myself. Number one, I could be the best, and number two, I had a lot to learn before I could turn pro. I would wait until the 1988 Olympics before cashing in. I’ve always been more into the glory than the money. Winning the Olympics would bring the glory and the gold, and later on I’d get the belts and the bucks. SURE I GOT KNOCKED DOWN, BUT I GOT UP I got knocked down twice in my career, and I’m so proud that both times I got back on my feet.
The first time was against Oliver McCall, and the second was against Hasim Raham. Not only did I get up, but I got them back in the ring, avenged the defeat, and got back the title. In between my losses and rematches I made sure that I tried to be a good loser, praising my opponent and hailing his knockout punch, while also declaring in a nice way that I would be back. HOW THOSE SPORTS LESSONS HELP HIM TODAY Even today, I’m tireless when it comes to the projects I have to get done. I go at it like I’m still that twentysomething boxer on the road, in the snow, putting in that roadwork. It’s that whatever it takes attitude that got me through training for my fights, and now it’s what guides me through life as a father, businessman, and broadcaster.
I always feel like I have to be the one to run in the rain because the other guy doesn’t. That’s probably what explains how I won. 96 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME MY WRAP He may have been a sensational athlete and a dominant champ, but even Lennox Lewis suffered defeat. Even though he is now fabulously rich and successful, it was the interest of one man that was needed to get him off the streets. Next time you think you are too busy to coach and marginalize the impact you could have on a kid, think of the trainer who decided to take an interest in a fifteen-year-old kid named Lennox Lewis, who would eventually retire as heavyweight champ of the world. LENNOX LEWIS
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